Swallow's Nest (Cuisine Version)

I was watching Iron Chef last night on the Food Channel, and the theme ingredient of the episode was swallow’s nest.

I’ve never heard of this ingredient, and I couldn’t tell what it was or where it came from. The announcers never discussed what swallow’s nest was. They did mention that it had no real taste, like shark fin.

One thing was clear: it is a hideously expensive ingredient. They showed a close-up of some swallow’s nest being fried up in a pan, and the announcer estimated that there was a thousand dollars worth in there. Chairman Kaga said the total cost of swallow’s nest for that show was $24,000.

So my questions are:

  1. What is swallow’s nest in Asian cuisine?

  2. Why is it so expensive?

  3. If it has no taste, why is it so desirable?

Oh, and I should mention that I did try Googling to find the answer, only to discover that “Swallow’s Nest” is apparently a very popular name for bed & breakfasts all over the country.

Try “swallow’s nest food”